The following contains spoilers for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, now playing in theaters.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem heavily changes a lot of what fans know about the Ninja Turtles. From how the teenage turtles act to the world around them, things are quite different from the franchise's other continuities. This can be seen in how the movie's secondary antagonist references a classic species from previous shows and comic books.
Cynthia Utrom attempts to use the turtles to harness the power of the mutagenic ooze. Interestingly, her last name is the same as an alien group from the original comics and the franchise's 2003 cartoon. The suggestion is that these extraterrestrials now have a much more earthbound origin. While this might be the biggest change among many in Mutant Mayhem, it's mostly for the better.
The TMNT's Ooze Came From the Most Unlikely Source
Like the TMNT themselves, the Utrom aliens were created by franchise fathers Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. These were small, pink extraterrestrials that crawled about on their tentacles, though they used android exosuits to pass as humans after crash landing on Earth years before. Their species had created the mutagenic "ooze" that mutated Splinter and the turtles, with the capsule containing it bearing the title of their front company: TCRI. Despite the masquerade, the Utroms were actually peaceful creatures who came to help the Ninja Turtles and their master Splinter. This take on the characters would be utilized in the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and the 2012 animated series, though the latter used elements of a similar but unrelated character.
The 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon notably didn't feature the Utroms, namely when it came to the origin of the Ninja Turtles. It did, however, have a new character named Krang, who was the series' main antagonist alongside the turtles' foe, The Shredder. Krang hailed from Dimension X and had lost his body, remaining only as a tentacled brain. With this visual and the fact that he would constantly walk around via robotic armor, it was easy to compare Krang and the Utroms on an aesthetic level. The second live-action movie in the franchise -- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze -- featured a scientist named Jordan Perry. Working for TGRI (the company's name in the movie continuity), he was going to be revealed as an alien Utrom whose human body was merely a shell. This was dropped, however, because kids may think he was Krang and be confused as to why he was seemingly on the same side as the turtles.
The 2003 cartoon ditched Krang and almost all elements from the old show that didn't hail from the early comics. In reference, however, one indignant Utrom named Krang is seen complaining about having to walk on his tentacles. The IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics would have the Utroms as a somewhat more violent race of aliens, with Krang simply being one of them. Similarly, the 2012 cartoon had "the Kraang" as a faction of Utroms that had become evil. The two divergent but similar ideas have now been more intertwined than ever, but the franchise's newest movie goes in a different direction.
TMNT: Mutant Mayhem Turns an Alien Species Into a Human Woman
In Mutant Mayhem, the classic Ultrom aliens are nowhere to be seen. The word, however, is present via the movie's secondary antagonist, though this foe isn't the TMNT staple Shredder. Cynthia Utrom is a woman who seeks retribution against the errant scientist Baxter Stockman, who had left TCRI and created mutagenic ooze. This ooze later creates Stockman's mutant "son" Superfly, as well as the Mighty Mutanimals, Master Splinter and the Ninja Turtles themselves. Cynthia Utrom sees the potential of this ooze and aims to extract it from the turtles, with their blood having the potential to create armies of mutant soldiers.
This concept heavily remixes the Utrom idea from the ground up. After all, it's Baxter Stockman who creates the ooze in this world instead of the alien Utroms. While Cynthia Utrom works for TCRI, she doesn't seem to have Stockman's same level of scientific intellect. Likewise, the Utroms are usually shown as being a benevolent species of aliens with no interest in warfare, conquest or amoral experimentation. That's the opposite of how her namesake acts in essentially every continuity beyond the IDW Publishing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books. Likewise, there's really no evidence that she's an alien or anything other than human. On the one hand, it could mean that her last name is really just a reference and nothing more. On the other, it could mean that the alien aspect of the Utrom species is going to be dropped entirely.
Getting Rid of the Alien Utroms in TMNT Is for the Best
Being an alien species is an intrinsic part of the Utroms in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, though the concept is strangely rarely used to its full capacity. This largely stems from the fact that they're meant to be good guys, as having a conspiratorial group of alien invaders forcibly mutating Earth's animal life makes a lot more sense for characters such as the Utroms. This role has been instead applied to Krang/Kraang, who always seemed to be vaguely based on the Utroms from the comic books anyway. There's also the fact that the Utroms and more cosmic story elements always felt like strange additions to the TMNT lore. While the aliens may have appeared early into the comic book's run, it's worth noting that the first volume of Mirage Studios' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics was essentially Eastman and Laird creating stories by randomly throwing things together based on the two's differing interests.
This haphazard nature is likely why the Utroms have always felt like a tacked-on addition to the franchise. The classic live-action movies were able to make their origin work without the Utroms, and the same was even the case for the first Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. In other words, the many changes present in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem presented a good opportunity to explicitly excise the aliens from the turtles' origin story while still referencing them in some way. Of course, if the movie's sequel film or TV series introduce Krang, he could very well be used to reveal that Cynthia Utrom has an alien origin of her own. For now, however, she's a sign that the creators of the new movie are "fixing" an element of the series that's never quite worked as well as others.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is now playing in theaters.